Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Russia warns US it will strike back if militia attacks in Syria don’t end

RT | September 21, 2017

Moscow has warned the US that if militias it supports in northeast Syria again attack positions of pro-government forces backed by Russia, the Russian military will use all its force to retaliate.

The troops of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), a predominantly Kurdish militia that receives support from the US military, have twice attacked positions of the Syrian Arab Army in the Deir ez-Zor governorate with mortar and rocket fire, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov.

“Russia unequivocally told the commanders of US forces in Al Udeid Airbase (Qatar) that it will not tolerate any shelling from the areas where the SDF are stationed,” Konashenkov said, adding that the attacks put at risk Russian military advisers embedded with Syrian government troops.

“Fire from positions in regions [controlled by the SDF] will be suppressed by all means necessary,” he stressed.

Konashenkov said Moscow suspected the SDF of colluding with the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) in Deir ez-Zor rather than fighting it, as it claims to be. He said Russia had detected the transfer of SDF fighters from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, to join forces with the jihadists.

“SDF militants work to the same objectives as IS terrorists. Russian drones and intelligence have not recorded any confrontations between IS and the ‘third force,’ the SDF,” the Russian general said.

The statement said that the siege of Raqqa by the SDF has been halted, apparently in response to the latest advances by Syrian government forces in Deir ez-Zor, which is located to the east from Raqqa along the Euphrates River.

“The central parts of the former ISIL capital, which account for roughly 25 percent of the city, remain under full control of the terrorists,” Konashenkov remarked.

According to the statement, in the last 24 hours Syrian government troops “continued their offensive operation” to destroy the last “IS bridgehead” near the city of Deir ez-Zor, the provincial capital. Troops led by Syrian Army General Suheil al-Hassan liberated around 16 sq km of territory and two settlements on the western bank of the Euphrates River.

“More than 85 percent of Deir ez-Zor’s territory is under the full control of Syrian troops. Over the next week the city will be liberated completely,” Konashenkov said.

The city of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria was besieged by Islamic State in 2014. Syrian government forces lifted the blockade of the city in early September.

However, the liberation of Deir ez-Zor also triggered a confrontation between Syrian government forces and the US-backed SDF militants, the point of contention being control of Deir ez-Zor’s oil fields.

Following Damascus’s strategic victory, food, medicine and other essentials started to reach the city by convoy, where previously the inhabitants had to rely on air-drops.

The escalation of tension in eastern Syria is mirrored in the western Idlib governorate, where militant forces this week attacked Syrian positions in a designated de-escalation zone. The offensive threatened a unit of Russian military police, who were stationed in the area to monitor the ceasefire. Russia mounted an emergency rescue operation on Wednesday, in which three Russian special operations troops were injured. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the militants’ offensive had been instigated by US special services.

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hué Back When: Vietnam’s Pivotal Battle Reconsidered

Photo by Raymond Depardon | CC BY 2.0
By Michael Uhl | CounterPunch | September 20, 2017

For Mark Bowden, author of Hué 1968, the pivotal battle of the War in Vietnam did not follow the script most Americans were used to scanning in their newspapers or visualizing on the evening news.  The war Americans followed at home was like a humongous hunting expedition. U.S. forces seemed engaged in an endless chase over a lush boondocks inhabited by peasants and dotted with rice paddies or trailing the rugged forested highlands in search of the Viet Cong, a cunning and elusive enemy whose tactics were hit and run, not stand and fight.

When an atypical fixed battle developed, it was typically well-removed from the population centers that hugged the coastline off the South China Sea. Vietnam was, after all, a guerrilla war, or more broadly understood, a people’s war fought to reunite a nation, artificially divided into North and South by fiat of the United States in the service of geopolitical brinksmanship. Accused of fermenting the southern insurgency, North Vietnam was mercilessly bombed, but spared the carnage of a ground war. Not so the south where, by whatever foul means, the idea was “to isolate the population from the Viet Cong,” notwithstanding that, as Mark Bowden readily concedes, “in most instances they were one in the same.” The resistance was popular and widespread, and its idea was to drive the American invader out, and overthrow a despised ruling clique of Vietnamese compradors which survived only because the invader had committed hundreds of thousands of its own troops and billions of its taxpayers’ dollars to sustain it.

Americans were consistently assured that bit by bit the tumultuous countryside was being pacified, and the guerillas attrited, both politically and as a fighting force.  In late 1967 Americans were told they were winning the war. When Tet – the Luna New Year – dawned on January 31, 1968, that illusion was irreparably shattered.  The vastly superior forces of the United States and its southern catspaw, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), were caught virtually flat footed when thousands of regular troops of the People’s Army of North Vietnam seemingly materialized from thin air, and in coordination with local units of the southern resistance, launched up and down the length and breath of South Vietnam what was quickly branded the Tet Offensive. The most stunning blow for Americans, war managers and citizens alike, was an assault on the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon taken right to the walls of the American Embassy.

For several weeks thereafter, media attention in the U.S. and throughout the world focused primarily on the shock of Saigon’s vulnerability, overplaying its significance. A thousand kilometers north, at first scarcely noticed, even by the Commander of U.S. forces, General William Westmoreland, a battle had commenced that would become the “longest and bloodiest” of the war, not waged over the – till then – familiar rural topography, but house to house, street by street, culminating in one of the most intense chapters of urban warfare in the annals of American military history. Observers today might liken it to a more recent urban free-for-all entangling American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. Or, better yet, recall a U.S. military fiasco in downtown Mogadishu that Mark Bowden had crafted into an earlier best seller. To the extent comparisons hold, the Battle of Hue was like Black Hawk Down on steroids.

Hue 1968 is a comprehensive account of that battle written in the page-turning style of popular narrative non-fiction. The author has assembled a cast of eyewitnesses who participated in the action, Vietnamese and Americans, and the battle unfolds in recollections mined from their interviews, and, for the departed, from other primary sources at his disposal, such as lengthy wartime correspondences. Bowden has properly set the strategic stage for his action in the context of the war’s two most relevant contemporaneous developments.  There was the very fact of Tet, simultaneous attacks with varying degrees of effectiveness on virtually every population center and military base in the South. The Year of the Monkey came in like Armageddon, catching General Westmoreland, for one, completely off guard even though he later claimed he knew those crafty commies were planning something.

To draw attention away from their true intentions, the North Vietnamese had executed a feint, keeping a remote Marine encampment under heavy bombardment at Khe Sanh near the border with Laos, and just below the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).  Taking the bait, and just two weeks before Tet, Westmoreland weakened his coastal enclaves by detaching troops to reinforce the beleaguered camp. The American general believed he was luring the North Vietnamese into a repeat of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which in 1954 brought French colonial control of Vietnam to an end but inadvertently opened the door to an American invasion. This time, Westmoreland fantasized, “he was determined to prevent history from repeating itself.” That battle never developed, and several months later, Khe Sanh was abandoned by the Americans.

Westmoreland’s obsession with Khe Sanh apparently prevented him from fully grasping that Hue, South Vietnam’s third largest city, and former Imperial capital, had fallen to the Liberation Front in less than twenty-four hours. This pattern of disbelief was moreover pervasive up and down the American chain of command. At Phu Bai, a Marine base less than fifteen miles south of Hue, the commanding general, with improbable symmetry named Forster LaHue, repeatedly ignored reports on the size of the force his counterattack would face, and insisted that, instead of thousands, their number couldn’t possibly exceed more than a few hundred. Could a force as large as the one being reported enter and occupy the entire city that quickly and virtually undetected? Through some of his most original reporting Bowden reconstructs exactly how that occurred.

Shifting the action in his account from one adversary to the other, Bowden begins with the attack, describing how four regiments totaling roughly four thousand uniformed NVA soldiers managed to infiltrate the border between North and South Vietnam, rendezvous with local guerrillas in a force of equal size, and ultimately bivouac on the outskirts of Hue. “It was the kind of troop movement,” comments Bowden, “that could remain secret only if the citizenry supported it, or didn’t care enough to sound the alarm.”

Certainly in Hue there were many Catholics who, in general, were partisans of the Saigon regime, not to mention a contingent of elite ARVN soldiers stationed there, who would have sounded the alarm if they’d been aware of any imminent threat. On another side was a strong current of anti-Americanism among the Buddhists and the student body at Vietnam’s prestigious Hue University, who two years earlier had combined and rioted against the repressive South Vietnamese government, and burned the library of the United States Information Service. But by early 1968, Hue was being little frequented by the war’s violence, and hopes were stoked that the city’s rich stock of architectural treasures, not least the palace of Vietnam’s last royal dynasty, might avoid destruction. Compared with the rest of the country, life in Hue was reasonably good, and reasonably safe. A degree of political complacency had set into what remained a functional commercial entrepot where trade and traffic on Hue’s iconic Perfume River remained brisk.

Even though a majority of Hue’s population of 140,000 could not be considered pillars of the revolution, an underground resistance network was well-entrenched in the city and highly motivated.  And Bowden, having tracked down a small cast of survivors, gives us affecting  sketches of, among others, the Village Girl who guided the troops through the darkness and pointed them toward their targets; the VC commander who stood up to the hero of Dien Bien Phu, General Vo Nguyen Giap, and revised the battle plan; the college boy who worked with his fisherman landlord to smuggle arms into the city by sampan; the Buddhist poet turned what we would call ‘information officer,’ and Bowden – who holds many conventional opinions– calls “propagandist;” but my favorite was the balsy little guy who was given the task to create a giant new flag for the victors to raise once they’d taken the city.

The flag detail merits a special nod to illustrate the contrast between the high tech m.o. of the Empire’s war machine, and the endless improvisation of those in the Front who used gumption, imagination and stealth to their advantage in the face of overwhelming fire power from air, land and sea. The task to create a flag to be seen, not as “an invasion or occupation, but rather as a liberation,” fell to Sargent Cao Van Sen, an old war horse who’d fought with the Viet Minh against the French, joined the northern Army, and was then ordered back to his native Hue to organize among the Viet Cong. The idea of the flag, Bowden says “was to recognize real political differences between North and South,” with a design that represented, not only the liberation forces, but also “the intelligentsia and the city’s religious factions – Buddhists and Catholics.” Hanoi’s political objective at that stage was transitional, “to establish a neutral, independent South Vietnam,” leaving reunification to future negotiations.” Sgt. Sen’s job was to line up the material, a sewing machine and a seamstress to produce a single flag, which, when completed, required two men to carry it.  After being “run up the 123-foot flagpole… that stood just outside the royal palace before the Citadel’s southern wall… it was visible all over Hue” when the city’s denizens awoke January 31st on the first morning of Tet.

Metropolitan Hue spread over both sides of the Perfume River, and the Front’s objective was to occupy the zone on the south bank called the Triangle, and, on the north, the Citadel, an “enormous fortress that enclosed nearly two square miles… its walls twenty-six feet high and impenetrably thick,” and enclosing the neighborhoods of Hue’s most affluent residents. Primary targets, included the air strip inside the Citadel, the province headquarters, the treasury, the post office, the prison, the radio station and “the sole American base, the [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] MACV compound.”

The Commander of the Front, General Dang Kinh watched from high ground to the west, anxiously awaiting the assault to begin. Finally, “throughout the city arose the sound of gunfire… scattered at first, and then as if touched off by a fuse, it rose rapidly to a din.” By the time the shooting stopped, the attacking force, having “suffered only a few casualties, had dealt Hue’s defenders a crushing surprise blow.” The only major targets not overrun were a fortified redoubt occupied by the 1st ARVN Division inside the Citadel, and the MACV compound on the opposite side of the river, both heavily under siege.

Notwithstanding the loud cheerleading from Hanoi for Tet to unleash a “popular uprising,” it was General Kinh’s opinion, according to Bowden, that no such uprising would occur, not even in subdued and occupied Hue, given the certainty of an overpowering American counter-attack.  Kinh knew his forces “could take the city, but… not hold it for long. Achievable goals… were to destroy the ARVN division, and… round up… those who represented the Saigon regime… who were marked for arrest and punishment.”

The subsequent executions of many of these Saigon officials is thematic in Bowden’s text, an overly eager retailing of the ex post facto justification among the war’s apologists for the American decision to rescue their allies by destroying their city.  More informed observers might counter that for an American writer of Bowden’s stature to lay charges of mass murder at the Vietnamese resistance– in this instance taking blood retaliation on enemies considered legitimate military targets – demonstrates a highly hometown cast of mind, and a failure to do the math on the infinitely less selective assassination orgy of the U.S. Phoenix Program, not to mention the war’s vastly unbalanced human death toll perpetrated upon the Vietnamese population by the invader.

Kinh’s prediction proved correct. And much of what Bowden encapsulates in Hue 1968 is devoted to a ground level view on just how the city was retaken. Bowden fully examines first January 31st, the day Hue fell, from a variety of vantage points including civilians and combatants on both sides, then moves the battle forward in week long blocks until the Front, faced with annihilation, is forced to withdraw. Had the U.S. command acted more swiftly, the lives of many marines might have been spared, but the city faced devastation in every scenario as long as the occupiers remained. The initial counter-thrust came from the nearby Marine base at Phu Bai when General LaHue, still doubting his adversary’s vast numerical superiority, initially dispatched so few marines that, on one of few occasions during the war, the U.S. was seriously out-gunned. When a marine captain already in Hue called for air and artillery strikes to dislodge the entrenched enemy, General LaHue told him “rather strikingly that he was overreacting.“ LaHue “saw no reason on earth why the more than four hundred men in the [MACV] compound, reinforced with well over three hundred U.S. marines,” assorted tanks and heavy weaponized vehicles, “should not be able to flatten anything between them and the fucking Citadel.”  Bowden aptly titles this episode An Idiotic Mission.

Three hundred men represented one understrength marine battalion, but only a single unit, Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Division was dispatched at first to test the enemy strength. This proved a disaster, and the best account of the action on the ground I’ve found was not Bowden’s, but in Vietnam-Perkasie, a memoir by W.D. (Bill) Ehrhart. When Alpha Company left Phu Bai just as the sun was coming up, Bill Ehrhart was given the option of staying behind. He was short, meaning only a few days remained on what had already been a harrowing thirteen month tour.  But since the unit was just going to check things out, and were told they’d be back by evening, Bill threw caution to the wind.

Alpha Company, moving to relieve the assault on the MACV compound passed a gas station on the city outskirts, and then, Ehrhart writes, “all hell broke loose… The shock of the ambush caught the whole column completely by surprise… We knew the compound lay straight up the road… seven blocks ahead… We fought our way up the [first] block. And the one after that. All day long we inched up the street. Casualties were appalling.  Wounded and dead Marines lay everywhere.”  Ehrhart, wounded in action, was in the thick of it the whole time. His memoir is a compelling, heart wrenching read.

From there Bowden covers the fighting chapter and verse. And if battle action is your genre, it’s a read that’s hair raising enough to fix your attention. The killing went on for 26 days, and by the end, 80% of the city lay in rubble. Bowden devotes a last chapter to Hue’s human toll. “Two-hundred and fifty American marines and soldiers were killed, and 1,554 wounded… The Front’s losses are estimated at between 2,400 and 5000…. A conservative guess at those executed would be two thousand… [which] brings us to a combined civilian death toll of about eight thousand… not an exact figure, but to the degree it’s off, it’s off by being too low.”

That the civilian death toll was enormous, cannot be doubted, and is by most accounts I’ve read over the years attributed to the terrible pounding the city took from naval off-shore guns, and from American and ARVN air power and artillery intent on expelling the Front whatever the human cost. As for “those executed,” it appears as if Bowden may have that figure “off” by a factor of ten. Writing in The New York Times in October 1972, Richard Barnet, a former State Department official and co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, quotes what the Hué Police Chief told a correspondent of The Times of London in March 1968 just days after the battle. The Chief, “Doan Cong Lap estimated the total number of executions at 200.“ Moreover, “the local Catholic priest reported that none of his clergy or parishioners were harmed by the N.L.F. [National Liberation Front],” who had been given instructions to be on their best behavior.  Even if these two eyewitnesses under-counted the reprisal deaths, it’s still unlikely that Bowden’s figure holds water, given his reliance on official U.S. sources.

Richard Barnet took up this topic at a time when voices in the Nixon administration were claiming that mass executions at Hué were proof there would be a bloodbath if the U.S. withdrew and the communists came to power. When questioned on this in Hanoi, Premier Pham Van Dong retorted, “There is nothing in recent Vietnamese history to suggest that a government bent on killing hundreds of thousands of people in South Vietnam can keep peace.” In any case the bloodbath was us. As Barnet dryly quipped, “In the Orwellian age, the daily saturation bombings of Indochina are defended as missions of mercy.”

Mark Bowden seems to bend over backwards throughout this voluminous and valuable book to provide a two-sided perspective on a particularly tragic moment in the Vietnam War. But there’s something distastefully familiar in his throwaway rhetoric of the Cold War bias that got us into Vietnam in the first place. Bowden demonstrates how truth is betrayed by the words he chooses, for example, that “antiwar activists in the States romanticized Ho Chi Minh, and his cause, emphasizing his nationalist character… [but] Hanoi was Communist, authoritarian to the core… ruthless and doctrinaire.” Yet even this phobic reflex to honor the thought police in the mainstream where he prospers doesn’t cause Bowden to ignore that it was the Stalinists who hoped to come to power though the ballot box and the Americans who made war to prevent that.

By consensus in the school of conventional wisdom the Tet Offensive of 1968 was the turning point of the Vietnam War, after which the American war aim was not to win, but how to get out. Mark Bowden makes an excellent case that the fulcrum of that turning point was the Battle of Hue. But what if there was no turning point?  In Vietnam the protracted war to expel a powerful foreign invader had its roots in millennia past; the American invasion was just another bump in the road.

Michael Uhl is the author of  Vietnam Awakening

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Trump Falls in Line with Interventionism

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 19, 2017

In discussing President Trump, there is always the soft prejudice of low expectations – people praise him for reading from a Teleprompter even if his words make little sense – but there is no getting around the reality that his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly must rank as  one of the most embarrassing moments in America’s relations with the global community.

Trump offered a crude patchwork of propaganda and bluster, partly delivered as a campaign speech praising his own leadership – boasting about the relatively strong U.S. economy that he mostly inherited from President Obama – and partly reflecting his continued subservience to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, perhaps most importantly, Trump’s speech may have extinguished any flickering hope that his presidency might achieve some valuable course corrections in how the United States deals with the world, i.e., shifting away from the disastrous war/interventionist policies of his two predecessors.

Before the speech, there was at least some thinking that his visceral disdain for the neoconservatives, who mostly opposed his nomination and election, might lead him to a realization that their policies toward Iran, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere were at the core of America’s repeated and costly failures in recent decades.

Instead, apparently after a bracing lecture from Netanyahu on Monday, Trump bared himself in a kind of neocon Full Monte:

–He repeated the Israeli/neocon tripe about Iran destabilizing the Middle East when Shiite-ruled Iran actually has helped stabilize Iraq and Syria against Sunni terrorist groups and other militants supported by Saudi Arabia and – to a degree – Israel;

–He again denounced the Iranian nuclear agreement whose main flaw in the eyes of the Israelis and the neocons is that it disrupted their plans to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran, and he called for “regime change” in Iran, a long beloved dream of the Israelis and the neocons;

–He repeated the Israeli/neocon propaganda about Hezbollah as a terrorist organization when Hezbollah’s real crime was driving the Israeli military out of southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an Israeli occupation that began with Israel’s 1982 invasion;

–He praised his rush-to-judgment decision to bomb Syria last April, in line with Israeli/neocon propaganda against President Bashar al-Assad and partly out of a desire to please the same Washington establishment that is still scheming how to impeach him;

–He spoke with the crass hypocrisy that the neocons and many Israeli leaders have perfected, particularly his demand that “all nations … respect … the rights of every other sovereign nation” — when he made clear that he, like his White House predecessors, is ready to violate the sovereignty of other nations that get in Official Washington’s way.

A Litany of Wars

Just this century, the United States has invaded multiple nations without U.N. authorization, based on various “coalitions of the willing” and other subterfuges for wars of aggression, which the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed the “supreme international crime” and which the U.N. was specifically created to prevent.

Barack Obama and George W. Bush

Not only did President George W. Bush invade both Afghanistan and Iraq – while also sponsoring “anti-terror” operations in many other countries – but President Barack Obama acknowledged ordering military attacks in seven countries, including against the will of sovereign states, such as Libya and Syria. Obama also supported a violent coup against the elected government of Ukraine.

For his part, Trump already has shown disdain for international law by authorizing military strikes inside Yemen and Syria. In other words, if not for the fear of provoking American anger, many of the world’s diplomats might have responded with a barrage of catcalls toward Trump for his blatant hypocrisy. Without doubt, the United States is the preeminent violator of sovereignty and international law in the world today, yet Trump wagged his finger at others, including Russia (over Ukraine) and China (over the South China Sea).

He declared: “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea. We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow.”

Then, with a seeming blindness to how much of the world sees the United States as a law onto itself, Trump added: “The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based.”

Of course, in the U.S. mainstream media’s commentary that followed, Trump’s hypocrisy went undetected. That’s because across the American political/media establishment, the U.S. right to act violently around the world is simply accepted as the way things are supposed to be. International law is for the other guy; not for the “indispensible nation,” not for the “sole remaining superpower.”

On Bibi’s Leash

Despite some of his “America First” rhetoric – tossed in as red meat to his “base” – Trump revealed a global outlook that differed from the Bush-Obama neoconservative/liberal-interventionist approach in words only. In substance, Trump appears to be just the latest American poodle on Bibi Netanyahu’s leash.

For instance, Trump bragged about attacking Syria over a dubious chemical-weapons claim while ignoring the role of the Saudi/Israeli tandem in assisting Al Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate; Trump threatened the international nuclear agreement with Iran while calling for regime change in Tehran, two of Netanyahu’s top priorities; and Trump warned that he would “totally destroy North Korea” over its nuclear and missile programs while making no mention of Israel’s rogue nuclear arsenal and sophisticated delivery capabilities.

Ignoring Saudi Arabia’s ties to terrorism, Trump touted his ludicrous summit in Riyadh in which he danced with swords and let King Salman and other corrupt Persian Gulf monarchs, who have long winked and nodded at ideological and logistical support going to Al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups, pretend their governments were joining an anti-terror coalition.

Exploding the myth that he is at least a street-smart operator who can’t be easily conned, Trump added, “In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them.”

No wonder Netanyahu seemed so pleased with Trump’s speech. The Israeli prime minister could have written it himself while allowing Trump to add a few crude flourishes, like calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man … on a suicide mission”; referring to “the loser terrorists”; and declaring that many parts of the world are “going to hell.”

Trump also tossed in a plug for his “new strategy for victory” in Afghanistan and threw in some interventionist talk regarding the Western Hemisphere with more threats to Cuba and Venezuela about escalating sanctions and other activities to achieve more “regime change” solutions.

So, what Trump made clear in his U.N. address is that his “America First” and “pro-sovereignty” rhetoric is simply cover for a set of policies that are indistinguishable from those pushed by the neocons of the Bush administration or the liberal interventionists of the Obama administration. The rationalizations may change but the endless wars and “regime change” machinations continue.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Washington Continues Transforming Afghanistan into Massive Graveyard

By Vladimir Platov – New Eastern Outlook – 17.09.2017

On August 31, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed an order to deploy additional US troops in Afghanistan. He noted that this decision was made in accordance with the overall strategy in South Asia that was approved by US President Donald Trump. This means that the number of American soldiers dispatched in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will reach a total of 14,500.

It should be noted that even though Washington unleashed armed aggression against Afghanistan back in 2001 under the pretext of combating terrorism, today Americans appear indifferent to Islamic State (ISIS) militants operating there, and have focused almost solely on fighting the Taliban. However, unlike the Taliban, the sole goal of which is to regain control over their country by pushing US troops out, ISIS militants have repeatedly stated their intention is to expand their area of operations across the whole of Central Asia, which presents a major to challenge to regional players as well as Russia and China. It is no coincidence that Moscow and Beijing have recently stepped up their diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan in a bid to prevent these radicals from infiltrating their borders.

Britain, in spite of bitter resistance from the Labor Party, is going to increase its military efforts in Afghanistan as well, although London has a disastrous track record of operations in this Central Asian state. British Minister of Defense Michael Fallon was delighted to hear the recent announcement by the Pentagon on Afghanistan. In a bid not to lag behind, the UK government was quick to announces its intentions to deploy special forces from the 22nd SAS regiment in Afghanistan to strengthen the 500 men strong task force operating in this country. Those elite forces are believed to be engaged in covert missions on the ground. However, Afghanistan is not the only state where those forces will be operating, since Iraq, Libya, and Tunisia are also on the list.

As representatives of the British military intelligence told the Sunday Times in late August, the Taliban has allegedly recreated underground cells in every major Afghan city. Somehow, London believes, that if this information is true, the elite troops dispatched to the region will be somehow able to prevent a massive offensive by the Taliban.

However, as it’s been noted by the former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai in a interview for a major Russian media platform: “Washington’s new strategy will not lead to peace and stability in Afghanistan, it will only intensify the fighting and bloodshed.” Ex-president Hamid Karzai also told Izvestia that the White House tries to deny peace and prosperity to the people of Afghanistan by intensifying military operations across the country with the help of the notorious military contractors like Academi, which violates the sovereignty of Afghanistan.

This gloomy assessment has been proven true by the recent announcement of the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan, which stated that on August 30 yet another series of air strikes carried out by the US coalition resulted in at least 28 women and children, while leaving more than 16 more injured.

However, peaceful citizens of Afghanistan are not the only victims of this senseless war. As it’s been recently reported by the New York Times, at least 18 CIA operatives lost their lives in Afghanistan in recent years. This figure can easily be compared to a similar death rate in Vietnam and Laos conflicts.

The US armed aggression against Afghanistan has resulted in more than 2,500 US servicemen losing their lives, according to the independent website iCasualties.org, while some 20,000 more were wounded over the course of the conflict. Such casualties were inflicted upon US forces in spite of the massive deployment supported by US intelligence agencies who secretly transported Hamid Karzai into the country at the beginning of the conflict, thus guaranteeing Kabul’s compliance with Washington’s policies.

One has to state that, regrettably, neither Washington nor London has learned anything over the course of this 16-years long war, since by sending more servicemen to Afghanistan they will continue transforming this country into a massive cemetery for Afghan citizens and US coalition soldiers alike.

September 17, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Syrian troops will fight US-backed militia to free Arab country: Assad aide

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s political and media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban
Press TV – September 16, 2017

The political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says government troops, backed by fighters from allied popular defense groups, will fight any force, including the US-backed militia, to fully liberate the Arab country plagued with terrorism for over six years.

“Whether it’s the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), or Daesh or any illegitimate foreign force in the country… we will fight and work against them so our land is freed completely from any aggressor,” said Bouthaina Shaaban in an exclusive interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Manar television network on Friday.

She added that the US-backed SDF forces had managed to capture areas in northeastern Syria from Daesh “without any fighting,” implying that the Takfiri militants were working hand in glove with the SDF to take oil-rich areas.

“But they will not get what they want,” the Syrian official added.

The SDF is a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is in control of large parts of northeastern Syria for many years. The SDF forces have gained ground against Daesh in the northern city of Raqqah, the terror group’s de facto capital in the Arab country.

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. They also support some groups, such as the SDF, claiming that they help them in their alleged fight against Daesh terrorists.

Different foreign-backed terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011. The government controls the main urban centers in the west of the country and has recaptured much of the eastern desert from Daesh in recent months.

On Tuesday, Lieutenant General Aleksandr Lapin, the Russian chief of staff in Syria, announced that Damascus was in control of 85 percent of the Arab country’s territories. He added that Syrian forces must now purge terrorists from the country’s remaining 15 percent, which amounts to 27,000 square kilometers.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Parliamentary lobby in Mexico to support Israeli settlement activities

Mexican MPs with leaders of settlers in the Occupied West Bank
Palestine Information Center – September 15, 2107

NAZARETH – A lobby group advocating Israel’s settlement activities has been formed in the Mexican parliament, according to Israel’s Channel 7.

The Palestinian Information Center (PIC) quoted the channel as saying that this lobby group would work on promoting the trade relations between Mexico and Israel’s industrial settlements and outposts [in the West Bank].

According to the channel, head of the West Bank regional council Yossi Dagan said the lobby was officially announced during the current week in the Mexican parliament, describing it as “very important for Israel.”

The channel affirmed that this lobby would also influence Mexico’s positions at the UN and its institutions in favor of Israel.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

Israel Threatens War with Syria Over Iranian Presence in The Country

By Robert Inlakesh | American Herald Tribune | September 15 ,2017

Ayelet Shaked, the Justice Minister of Israel has just threatened the Syrian government stating that Israel “will do what is necessary” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not keep Iran out of Syria.

The Israeli government – who last week bombed a Syrian military outpost, killing two soldiers – have now verbally challenged the Syrian government in the form of offering an ultimatum. The threats towards Syria come at a time when the Assad government forces have all but extinguished the presence of Daesh in Syria and are coming close to completely ending the war. Israel meanwhile seem to be having an anxiety attack over the current situation and have been beating hard on the drums of war.

In Netanyahu’s most recent meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, he frequently sought to voice his concerns over Iran, this was then – to Netanyahu’s frustration – brushed under the rug by Putin as it was viewed as a non-substantial issue. A paranoid Israeli government has meanwhile been busy preparing for war with pretty much every enemy they can since that meeting took place and don’t seem to be very happy with the way things are turning out in Syria, with the strengthening of the ‘axis of resistance’.

The Israeli Military has now notably brought it’s week long series of military drills – which included an simulated invasion of Lebanon – to a halt, this was Israel’s biggest military drill since 1998 (when they simulated an invasion of Syria). For any other country, such a drill as the one started on the 5th of this month would be be seen as a possible threat to national security and/or a provocation of war for the country being threatened, however Israel seems to be able to do this whilst coming under no scrutiny from the international media, nor the international community. Last month on the 10th of August, the Israeli government announced that they were in preparation for a ground invasion of Gaza, the Israeli air-force also has been performing several fly overs of Lebanese air space and has been calling for and discussing the prospect of waging war against, Iran, Syria, Gaza and of course Lebanon frequently in their media.

So should we expect something big from Israel?

Well let us look at the possibilities; The Israeli government is constantly threatening to take their sworn enemies to war and have been doing so since their inception in 1948, but the prospect of taking Syria into a war at this time could mean a global conflict and would result in huge casualties on the side of the Israelis, as well as on the side of their opposition.

Historically Israel has never liked taking large casualties and ended their most recent onslaught on the Gaza strip (2014) primarily because of this reason.

Israeli society completely endorse war with an enemy and opinion polls from within Israel show an increased support for the elected political party when they engage in war, so for Netanyahu’s Likud party, war would seem like a good idea in order to regain some of their recently lost popularity back from far-right Israeli parties. However, when soldiers begin to die, Israeli public opinion begins to flip and becomes more critical of the government, the reason Israel ended the onslaught upon Gaza in 2014 was due to the fact that in order to take the fight to the heart of Hamas, it would mean a ground invasion. Every ground confrontation with Hamas had ended in dead and wounded Israeli soldiers, so because Netanyahu and his party understood that they would loose support from many Israelis, they decided not to go ahead with it.

If Israel were to at this moment start a conflict, it would most likely be with Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon, a war in Syria is most likely Israel just attempting to get the attention of allies, so that they can broker a deal in Syria which would see the decline of Iranian presence.

The leader of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah this Tuesday announced that the war in Syria has been won by the Syrian government, this means that Hezbollah is confident that its fighters will soon be ready to face off against Israel in full force and Israel knows this. For Israel, these are not confident times and a war on Syria or Lebanon could mean heavy casualties. It is more than likely Israel would seek to achieve a conflict between ethnic-religious factions in Lebanon as a more strategic goal of weakening Hezbollah, this would be a more well thought out move for the state to play than a straight up conflict and could be a possibility they are considering as their relationship with Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab countries get stronger.

The statement made by Ayelet Shaked – although it most likely won’t be acted upon – is still something that has to be noted and shows that Israel is at least willing to consider such dangerous moves militarily. Ayelet – who gained international recognition for her racially charged statements about Palestinians – also recently voiced her support for an independent Kurdish state in Syria, stating to Haaretz that “Israel as well as western states will have great benefits from the creation of a Kurdish state.” She is tipped to be a possible future Prime Minister of Israel due to her popularity and someone who is so willing to challenge neighboring countries is a dangerous person to have in government, it is also now clear from her statements that Israel has a clear cut view on how to deal with the situation in Syria (via the Kurds).

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

US drone attack kills 3 in Pakistan’s tribal region

Press TV – September 15, 2017

A US drone strike has killed three people in the tribal area of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border.

“Two missiles were dropped on the home of Maulvi Mohib and three people have been killed,” said Baseer Khan Wazir on Friday. Wazir is the political agent and the most senior administrator in the Kurram Agency region in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.

Afghan Taliban sources said the attack targeted Pakistan-based Haqqani militants who are allied to the Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Two sources said Mohib was affiliated with Haqqani. “He remained associated with the Haqqani network but wasn’t a prominent figure,” said one senior Taliban member.

Another Taliban member, whose name was not mentioned in the report either, said Mohib was part of the Afghan Taliban. “We don’t differentiate the Haqqani network and Taliban. This is just a propaganda of the Western media.”

The US-led international forces in Afghanistan had no immediate information on the strike.

The United States carries out internationally-condemned extrajudicial drone strikes in several Islamic countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.

If confirmed, it would be the first US drone strike inside Pakistan since President Donald Trump outlined his new Afghanistan strategy.

The US president unveiled his administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan last month. He said he would prolong US military intervention in Afghanistan, ordering added forces in the region.

US officials have urged the neighboring Pakistani government to crack down on Haqqani militants operating in Pakistan. Islamabad, however, denies there are any militants on its side.

Observers predicted an increase in US drone attacks inside Pakistan when Trump came into power, but since January there have only been a few.

Another option being weighed by Washington, according to US officials, is targeted sanctions against Pakistani officials with links to extremist groups such as Haqqani.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, however, told Reuters on Monday that such a move would be counterproductive.

Trump, who had initially called for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, argued that his “original instinct was to pull out,” but that he was convinced by his national security team to take on the militants there.

The United States, under the presidency of Republican George W. Bush, and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. Insecurity remains in the country despite the presence of foreign troops.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

US Accelerates Afghanistan Bombing Campaign With Questionable Effectiveness

Sputnik – 14.09.2017

The US Air Force dropped an average of 16 bombs per day in August in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s plan to attack “America’s enemies” in the country, according to the most recent Pentagon data on munitions delivered in the country.

US Air Force warplanes including the F-16 “Viper,” the MQ-9 Reaper drone, and the B-52 Stratofortress bomber deployed 1,984 bombs from January to July of this year, according to US Air Force Central Command data published August 31.

Sputnik News therefore calculates that in the first seven months of the year, US jets dropped an average of 227 bombs per month. In August, more than twice as many bombs struck Afghani soil than an average month, at 503 munitions.

Increasing the frequency of bombing raids hasn’t required mobilizing extra aircraft assets to Afghanistan because “we’ve never come back” after arriving so many years ago, US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Military.com, noting he doesn’t envision a “significant plus-up” in the number of US warplanes stationed there.

In a May 20, 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed, retired US Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus and Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael E. O’Hanlon wrote: “We have a real fight on our hands in Afghanistan, but not a hopeless one … Even a modest US and NATO military contributions have the potential to make a considerable difference … Some might reasonably ask, after 15 years of war in Afghanistan, why do we need to keep at it? The answer is simple – because Afghanistan, effectively the eastern bulwark in our broader Middle East fight against extremist forces, still matters.”

The duo went on to say “air power in particular represents an asymmetric Western advantage, relatively safe to apply, and very effective against massed (or even individual) enemy forces and assets.”

Since O’Hanlon and Petraeus wrote the column, the US has consistently delivered more and more payloads each month to target insurgents in Afghanistan, Pentagon data shows.

The most recent publicly available report on the status of the fight in Afghanistan was released July 30 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and sheds light as to just how effective the bombs have been. It turns out the situation has given policymakers few reasons for optimism.

“The [US Intelligence Community] assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, is quoted as saying in the SIGAR report.

September 14, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

BDS – Expressing Solidarity while Conducting Trade with Israel Is Hypocrisy

By Miko Peled | American Herald Tribune | September 11, 2017

Israel is all geared up for war against all for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and the de-legitimization of the Zionist state. The ministry of strategic affairs headed by Gil’ad Erdan – which is charged with this task – is now equipped with a budget, a former Israeli army general, retired Brig. General Sima Vakini-Gil who acts as the ministry’s General Director and a new assistant to the General Director, Tsahi Gavrieli who has brought a new wind to the sails of the anti-BDS ship. Gavrieli brought in a team that includes legal experts, economists and media people and according to a story recently published in Hebrew on Ynet they call on the Israeli public to take part in the campaign. According to the story, some parts of the campaign are overt and some covert, and the ministry will no longer be on the defensive but take an active, offensive position. Israelis are now encouraged to join this campaign with apps like ACT.IL which shows how to take the fight on social media and combat the “slurs” against Israel.

According to Gavrieli the BDS movement is losing ground in the US, and he brings as examples recent laws passed by over twenty states that criminalize the call to boycott Israel. Among those states are California, New York and New Jersey, to name a few. Currently there is a bill being proposed in the United States Senate that proposed to make the call to boycott Israel a federal offense that will carry a twenty-year prison sentence and a one million dollar fine. This bill was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU in a letter that was sent to members of the United States Senate. Gavrieli also claims that the BDS call is a “masked attempt to de-legitimize Israel by calling for Palestinian rights.” He said that the claim made by the BDS movement that Israel is an apartheid regime “is insulting to South Africans” and that it is “baseless.” “I call on every Israeli,” says Gavrieli “to take part in this.”

The aims of the BDS movement could not be more clearly stated, and all one needs to do is read them to see that the lies being spread by the State of Israel and its supporters, are unfounded. The call for BDS calls to impose Boycott, divestment and sanctions on the state of Israel until such time that the military occupation is ended, Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights, and Palestinian refugees are permitted to return to their homes and their land. There is no racism, no hate and no discrimination of any kind is suggested or implied. It is an unequivocal demand to bring the Zionist State to do what is needed to achieve these goals. We must remember that negotiations with consecutive Israeli governments have all have failed and Israel has made it clear that it has no intention to end its policies of occupation, killing, dispossession and racist discrimination and its demand that the Palestinians capitulate.

It is worth reviewing and replying to remarks made by Senator Chuck Schumer regarding BDS at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum on June 5, 2017. “Sometimes anti-Semitism is cloaked, hidden by certain movements that profess no bias but suspiciously hold Israel—and, by extension, the Jewish people—to a different standard than others.” This is in fact a very dangerous statement that could very well be misconstrued. Is the Senator implying that that all Jews should be held accountable for the acts of the government of Israel?

“There is no greater example than this insidious effort to harm the Jewish state than through the boycotts, divestment and sanctions” Schumer continued, and the question that begs to be asked here is, was South Africa harmed by the call to boycott the Apartheid regime? Certainly not the Black South Africans. “The global BDS movement is a deeply biased campaign aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish state,” Schumer says, yet nothing in the demands of the BDS call or the actions of the BDS movement speak of destroying or getting rid of the Jewish State. Rather, the demands call to improve the conditions in which Palestinians live, conditions that were created by Israel and for which Israel is responsible. The demands of the BDS call seek to repair the inequities within which Palestinians live, like the military occupation and lack of rights. “And” Schumer adds, “its supporters, sometimes wittingly, sometimes unwittingly, but all of them practice a modern form of anti-Semitism.” Indeed, is it wise to refer to calls for justice and equality anti-Semitism. What modern form of anti-Semitism is it which does not incite against Jews, does not call for the killing of or discrimination against Jews but rather demands inclusion of all people so that they all may enjoy the same privileges. Is Senator Schumer saying that the call for justice and freedom is antithetical to Judaism?

Tsahi Gavrieli says that there is something even more serious than the BDS movement, it is the de-legitimization of the Jewish state particularly within Jewish communities. He is right, this is a serious issue because from its very inception there was no way in which the state of Israel could be legitimized except by fraud and deception. It is a state that was established by a settler colonial movement, which means that like all settler colonial movements, it was founded on racism and the use of violence against indigenous people. Israel has been engaged in genocide, a claim easily proven by reading the Geneva Convention on the crime of Genocide: particularly article 2, a, b, and c and article 3. Furthermore, the state of Israel has been engaged in ethnic cleansing and has a legal system in which Palestinians are denied rights that are provided to Jews. Legitimizing such a state is indeed a serious if not an impossible task.

The Jerusalem Post recently published an article by Adnan Oktar who claims that BDS “serves the continuity if not the escalation of the conflict.” Indeed all resistance movements may be accused of “escalating” conflicts. According to this argument the French should not have fought the Germans during WW-2; the Algerians should not have fought the French; the Vietnamese should not have insisted on fighting the French and then the Americans. Certainly the Lebanese should not have fought the Israelis to end the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon. Indeed, an entire movement that we know today as Hezbollah was created by the Lebanese for that purpose and it was successful. According to Mr. Oktar’s argument had all oppressed people been willing to die in silence the world would be a peaceful place. But would it indeed? The oppressed are always to blame for their unwillingness to remain oppressed – but resistance is a response to violence, it is never the cause of violence.

What is clear from the many articles written, conferences held, strategies contrived and laws passed regarding BDS is the following: there is nothing in this world that can stop the Palestinian struggle for justice. The call for BDS and the movement which was created because of it cannot be defeated. Boycotting Israel is the right thing to do, indeed the demands listed by the BDS call are just, reasonable and measured and every person of conscience and every government must heed this call. One would want to remind governments that claim to support the Palestinian cause, that expressing solidarity while conducting trade with Israel is hypocrisy.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow to bring diplomatic missions in US, Washington’s in Russia to parity – Lavrov

RT | September 11, 2017

Moscow will bring the terms of work of its diplomatic missions in the US and those of Washington in Russia into “full parity,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced. The statement comes after the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and two trade missions in Washington, DC, and NYC were forced to close at the end of August.

Russian authorities, Lavrov said, asked the Americans to make sure the overall number of their diplomatic staff working in Russia equals that of the number of Russian diplomats working in the US.

“But in doing so, we included into that overall number everyone who work at the Russian mission in the UN,” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference in Amman, Jordan, on Monday.

“Understandably, this is a separate issue not relating to bilateral [US-Russia] relations.

“Nevertheless, doing so we showed our good will,” he continued. “The US has sort of pocketed our kind gesture and said ‘If Russians want parity, make them close one of four consulates [in the US] as we have only three consulates in Russia.’”

The US State Department insisted that the move was reciprocal to Moscow’s decision to cut the number of American diplomatic staff in Russia.

Lavrov added that Moscow is now looking at conditions under which the American diplomatic missions operate in Russia, and vice versa.

“If the US makes parity a criterion, we will bring those conditions in full accordance with what is called parity,” Lavrov said.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin also spoke of disparity between Russia and the US in the number of their diplomatic staff.

“We have agreed with our [American] partners that there should be parity of the number of diplomatic staff in Russia and the United States. There were some 1,300 diplomats from the US; we had 455. We corrected this,” Putin told journalists last Tuesday.

“But among those 455 diplomatic staff working in the United States there are 155 people working at the United Nations. Strictly speaking, they are not part of the diplomatic corps accredited by the US State Department,” he added.

“So true parity would be the US not having 455 diplomats in Russia, but 155 fewer.”

The lingering diplomatic row between Washington and Moscow began back in 2016, when the outgoing Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland. Notably, Moscow chose not to retaliate at the time, hoping to mend ties during Donald Trump’s presidency.

American lawmakers, however, limited Trump’s ability to formulate foreign policy towards Russia by barring him from easing sanctions on Russia without congressional approval.

In July, following the US Congress’ approval of new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea in one package, Moscow cut the staff at American missions in Russia by 755 people. This brought the number to the same as Russian diplomatic staff in the US, which is 455 people.

In August, Washington announced in response that US consulates in Russia had halted issuing all non-immigrant visas for Russian citizens until further notice.

On August 31, on the Trump administration cited “the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians” and ordered the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, as well as two trade missions in Washington, DC, and New York City, to close. Moreover, FBI operatives conducted searches at Russia’s San Francisco Consulate.

The Russian Foreign Ministry vehemently opposed the closures, accusing operatives of the US security agencies that entered the Russian Consulate in San Francisco of “behaving like raiders.”

“Representatives of the US law enforcement agencies conduct unknown activities on the territory of the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco. They mutilate expensive parquet and do work without permission. Most importantly, nobody knows who these people are, who behave like raiders,” the ministry said.

Under the Vienna Convention

on Diplomatic Relations, premises of [any] diplomatic or consular mission “shall be inviolable” and “agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.”

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Syrian conflict is ending but US stays put

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | September 11, 2017

The Syrian government forces have broken through the ISIS’ 3-year long siege of the air base in the eastern city of Dier Ezzor. The dramatic developments in the weekend signifies for all purposes the end of the conflict in Syria. The capture of the city itself is now a forgone conclusion and with that ISIS becomes a spent force in Syria.

The covert US operation to evacuate by helicopter the ISIS commanders in Dier Ezzor last week suggests that the Pentagon accepts that the ISIS saga is ending in Syria, finally. Presumably, the ISIS and its “advisors” will now be reassigned to new theatres – such as Afghanistan. The lingering question will be: Is the US winding up business in Syria? A Russian commentary seems to think so.

On the other hand, there are reports that the rebel forces supported by the US Special Forces (with air cover) are making a dash from northern Syria to take a piece of Dier Ezzor, leaving behind the unfinished business of capturing Raqqa, ISIS’ “capital”. This risks a potential flashpoint involving them and the Russia-supported government forces in a struggle for supremacy in eastern Syria. (Reuters )

At stake are two things – one, seizure of the vast oil fields that lie to the east and north of Dier Ezzor that are the jewel in the crown of the Syrian economy; two, control of the Syrian-Iraqi border along the Euphrates and down south across which a “land bridge” could potentially connect Damascus with Tehran via Baghdad. Thus, both in economic terms as well as for geopolitical reasons, the US (encouraged by Israel) is racing against time in the final phase of the conflict to establish a military presence in the eastern and south-eastern regions of Syria.

The geopolitical reasons are three-fold: a) US would seek a “say” in any Syrian settlement; b) US hopes to challenge Iran’s cascading influence in Syria and Lebanon; and, c) US feels obliged to be a provider of security for Israel. All three factors are inter-connected. The point is, as a report in the Times of Israel underscores, Israel understands its limitations in taking on the Iranian militarily on its own steam. Gen. Yair Golan, former deputy chief of staff in the Israeli military has been quoted as saying in a stunning speech at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy last Thursday,

  • We (Israel) live in a world where we cannot operate alone not just because we have no expeditionary forces in Israel… And while we can achieve decisive victory over Hezbollah… and while we can defeat any Shia militia in Syria … we cannot fight Iran alone…  So, all right, they could affect us, we could affect them. But it’s all about attrition… If you want to gain something which is deeper, we cannot do it alone. And this is a fact of life. It’s better to admit that. We need to know our limitations.

Suffice to say, Israel will not allow the Trump administration to countenance a total US troop withdrawal from Syria. Put differently, some sort of US presence along the eastern banks of the Euphrates is on the cards on Israel’s insistence. Read an opinion piece titled Trump’s Big Decision in Syria by David Ignatius in the Washington Post last week on the debate in Washington.

Will Russia accept such an outcome? Arguably, it may suit Russia if the US is present in the region in some token form, necessitating, in turn, some sort of continued engagement with Russia, which has always been Moscow’s strategic priority. What about Turkey? Indeed, continued US alliance with the Syria Kurdish militia can only lead to the eventual consolidation of a Kurdistan in northern Syria, which Ankara abhors. But on the other hand, Turkey takes care not to collide with the US in Syria. Equally, Iran’s approach also may not be to simply “sidestep” the token American presence of a few hundred soldiers from the Special Forces and concentrate instead on the serious business of expanding its regional influence in Syria and Lebanon. Indeed, the US is unlikely to directly challenge Russia or Iran in eastern Syria, either.

What matters will be the new facts on the ground. The Syrian government forces (backed by Iranian and Hezbollah militia and Russian air power) have an edge over the US-led thrust from the north of Dier Ezzor. The highway connecting Damascus with Dier Ezzor is open for the first time in years. The Syrian forces are occupying the strategic heights in the region. On the contrary, the US has no reliable local ally other than the Syrian Kurdish militia, who from now onward will be fighting in regions inhabited by Sunni Arab tribes that are even further beyond the borders of their traditional homeland in northern Syria.

In the final analysis, therefore, at some point wisdom will dawn on the Pentagon that it is foolhardy to dream about carving out a “zone of influence” within Syria. With Saudi Arabia Qatar closing shop in Syria, and Jordan coming to terms with the Syrian regime, the US is finding that it is pretty much alone in that desolate region in the middle of nowhere. Some Iranian reports suggest that even the British bulldog is pulling out.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , , | 4 Comments